2018 SARE Tree Leaf Fodder Grant

SARE Farmer Grant #FNE18-897
Tree Leaf Fodder for Goats, Hogs, Sheep and Cows; Transitioning Farm Woodlots to 'Air Meadow' for          Climate Resilience




Traditional Air Meadow pruning cycles are aimed at developing accessible and resilient native tree forms while harvesting high quality animal fodder.  This repetitive drastic pruning spaced with three to five year rests is known to increase tree longevity, enhance bush and ground browse layers, add nutrients and life to soil, preserve broader forest gene pools of tree individuals per area, and increase habitat diversity and species counts.  The foliage height diverse landscape thus created is likely to have higher carbon sequestering potential than any other landscape on the same soil base. 

Such tree-based fodder production is likely to be more resilient to droughts, floods, and other weather variations than are pasture and hay fields.  Feeding of tree leaf fodders is likely to offer nutritional and medicinal qualities to both livestock and humans.  Perhaps illnesses of environment and beings can both be addressed by a return to the leaf harvesting ecological niche which we filled faithfully, over ubiquitously diverse broad regions, for 8,000 years.  Yet in this study we are applying a modern chipper/shredder to encourage larger farms to design feasible ways to reap these benefits.  

Research results and discussion:
Progress to date:

We completed initial pollarding (drastic pruning to be repeated cyclically) of about one half of trees in our 1 acre woodland ‘air meadow’ Demo Plot this growing season, with mostly red maples left (goats prefer these in winter).  Interns Joshua Kauppila and Emily MacGibeny have both completed their seasons’ commitments and are far away.  I have hired new intern Maddy Cain who will join me in April 2019. 

I am now pruning red maples and softwoods (we retained firs and pines with live branches <10 ft. up plus hemlock and w. cedar) which goats prefer in winter, and just fed out the last dried leafy branches from 3 storage piles there (excepting samples saved for our next trip to other farms, and a pile of green but goat-rejected oak to chip, re-moisten and ensile).  Entries on spread  sheets for goat weights (from which to compute dry matter consumed) and tree measurements (to describe our plot) therefore continue. 

Person-hours: We spent 454 person-hrs. felling tightly spaced softwoods and re-structuring the 5/8 acre’s worth of trees completed to 12/25/18 and dealing with brush /fodder. So we are taking about 726 person-hours/acre. Hiring an arborist would have been less expensive and much quicker, yet the goats could not have eaten as much fresh if pruning had happened all at once. Our time working in company of goats has been pleasant, often above the biting insect zone with partial shade for summer heat, and much stretching in varied use of our bodies. (Josh pictured below.) 

DM edible portion: The goats ate about 500 lbs. of fresh tree leaves (about 200 lbs. DM) from the 1/2 of trees in our 1 acre Demo Plot which we struggled to prune fast enough for them during the growing season. Goats ate about 1/3 fresh lb. per hr. per adult doe.  Nov. 1st to Dec. 25th they have eaten about 286 lbs. dried leaves and fresh bark combined (bark being from an additional 1/8 of Demo Plot trees), eating a bit more than 1/3 lb. dried leaves and fresh bark per adult goat per hr., (filling bellies much more thoroughly with these immediately abundant and drier feeds). This gives us a DM total of about 700 lbs. DM/acre being consumed by goats during initial restructuring of ‘air meadow’ trees. We are now out of dried leaves; yet I expect our DM consumed/acre figure to continue to rise as I prune the remaining 3/8 of Demo Plot trees, due to the higher rate of winter eating of choice red maple bark versus summer eating of sometimes non-choice fresh leaf species, the more easily climbable structures of maple trees, and slower perishability of prunings in winter.

Limiting factors during the growing season were: our ineptness at use of throw ball for getting ropes up into crowded trees with small high tops giving small returns per tree (particularly the aspens and white birches); same denseness making softwoods complicated to fell; a preponderance of red maple and softwoods which goats do not prefer in summer; and our research need to dry and to ensile portions of all species, some of which goats wanted fresh, like ensiled, but have refused dried (particularly quaking and big toothed aspens cut before frost, and red oak).

Storage: On-site feeding from the Demo Plot piles has been labor-saving and of significant feed value despite some insect damage, molds, and rejected tree species. One dried leaf storage pile’s center raised small green caterpillars making lace and excrement of aspen and oak leaves especially (ash seemed immune; r. maple and birches barely touched).  Another pile molded on top in the center, helped by small gaps in tarping around the original pole (later cut short).  About 2/3 leaves in the 3 storage piles retained green color and intact quality. Yet one doe one day was selecting molded aspen leaves over dried green aspen leaves (fresh aspen leaves from young root-sprouts and dried aspen leaves seem to have an anti-feedant issue for goats unless cut after frost). Barn dried leafy branches were insect free, but generally less colorful than those (shown below) from the densely packed tarped piles.
Livestock preferred courser shredding or chipping to fine, and picked through for largest leaf pieces, whether ensiled or dried (remaining woody chips contribute positively to bedding materials). I hope to perfect the speed of chipping or shredding in 2019 to produce the leafiest least ground-up texture.   

Chipped fodders ensiled in buckets and barrels produced more consistent quality (less mold, more green, and very well-received by all livestock) than those spread in wooden boxes in an open barn to dry. Humans consistently enjoyed the aromas of our leaf silages. Animals generally preferred even the three molded silages over dried leaves. Regardless, some species of even dried chipped leafy branches were popular with all livestock.

Initial restructuring (pollarding); Broadleaf Tree descriptive data:
Mean measurements on newly pollarded broadleaf trees: 

See www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com “Tree Inventory” spreadsheet with above stats per tree plus date cut, moon phase etc. Scroll to the bottom to see species separated and summarized, and then new winter data beginning.

Softwoods:  We retained the few hemlocks and white cedars to prune, plus all firs and pines with live branches below 10 ft. were topped rather than felled.  Two grand white pines are also remaining unaltered.
Tally of felled softwoods: 

Tree sprouting responses: Red maples (below ctr.), some oaks (below R), and one white birch (below L) have responded to initial pollarding with significant sprouts.  I expect most others to begin to sprout in spring, but am not counting upon the aspens, as their leaves we retained were drying toward the end of our summer drought.

See www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com for picture files of both newly pollarded trees in the Demo Plot and established pollards elsewhere on the farm that we are re-pruning and watching/photographing.  I will take pictures of sprouting of tagged tree joints in September 2019 as written; there will be up to 2 seasons’ growth on some of the trees, as maples for instance were pruned last winter (original write-up said 1 yr’s. growth, which will be true for a few trees)
Photos of healing on previously established pollards are also there, and will be discussed in our 2020 Final Report “Pruning Guidelines” section.

Livestock responses: Livestock sampling of fresh intact and fresh chipped leafy branches was generally very positive, with almost 4/5 of offerings eaten immediately or eventually.  Holstein cows at Faithful Venture Farm were least enthusiastic, with widely varying responses probably related to the timing of visits.  Unfortunately they were the farthest away and my own time window tended to be evening when they were receiving other feed in the barn. Also a small wide free goat was confounding reliability of any “2 eventually ate” entries. I may make return visits to the Holsteins with fresh fodders in 2019, to correct these issues.

I am now taking data on livestock responses to ensiled chipped and ensiled hand-stripped leafy branches, plus to dried intact and dried chipped leafy branches.  As Jackson Regenerational Farm no longer has cattle, Meadowsweet Farm sheep and cows are now on board, with extremely positive responses to 10 silages and 13 dried samples at first visit on 11/21/18 (photos below). 

Ensiled leaves have been positively received by all our livestock samplers, and are generally preferred over dried leaves, with intact preferred over chipped, whether dry or ensiled. Ash and willow are devoured in any form by all livestock. Goats eagerly eat chipped ensiled aspen though they are refusing even intact aspen dried unless cut after frost and turning.  Cattle and hogs (and occasionally sheep or goats though less traditional) have begun to sample traditionally cooked dried leaves of various species, with positive responses especially from the cattle – even Faithful Venture Holsteins! who so far rank cooked leaves even above ensiled leaves.

R.I.P Alchemy, the bull-calf raised primarily on tree leaves at Jackson Regenerational Farm, who was an especially sweet-tempered and appreciative contact. His hanging weight was 150 lbs. after one summer of life. 

Animal Response Summary Chart: these response means do not reflect range of responses.    
See “Animal Responses” spreadsheet at www.3streamsfarmbelfastme.blogspot.com for full range of responses.
(3 Streams Farm Guinea hogs love fresh black locust and ash)

Research conclusions:
We sought to restructure one acre of woodland into fodder-producing pollarded “air meadow” in one growing season, and have found that (due to our amateur climbing skills) we need the remaining time in our grant period to complete this Demo Plot.  Fodder returns have been low at 1 lb. Dry Matter/person-hr. worked. Yet in subsequent harvests we expect prunings to be more leafy with less wood, and to average something like 3 to 6 ft. long instead of these initial rather dangerous 15 to 40 ft. tops we have been dropping. Some hard-to-reach tree tops may shift their energy downward, if weather does not allow them to sprout sufficient leafy surface to draw sap so disproportionately far, and we expect sunlight to help trees develop new low branches that will make climbing entry easier. Over time the bush and ground layers should offer livestock more browse as they wait for prunings to drop.

We are succeeding in obtaining cattle, sheep, goat and hog responses to a broad range of tree leaf fodder products, with predominantly positive responses to fresh, dried, ensiled, and cooked leaves or leafy branches. We are especially excited about the logistically easier chipped or shredded silages.

We will be able to produce a ball-park Dry Matter figure for what our goats consume from initial establishment of the Demo Plot (see preliminary figures in previous section).
We have extensive photographic data on trees being pollarded, and next fall will add pictures of new growth, from which to draw species-specific conclusions about our pruning protocols. In addition to requirements of our grant, we added moon phase information to our tree inventory, and hope to learn more from both our tree sprouting responses and from European University contacts about timing cutting in relation to moon-weeks.

In April, we hope to seek funding to test nutrition of ensiled and dried fodder samples.  We are also exploring larger scale ensiling of chipped tree matter.

We look forward to continuing to utilize and monitor the progress and fodder offerings of the “air meadow” Demo Plot along with our goats and hogs, to the end of this grant period, and in years to come.      

I spoke for 10 minutes about tasty timing of leaf harvests, based upon literature resources and my observations of goats and hogs, and produced an article and PowerPoint on same, for Colloque Trognes in Sare, France March 2nd.  I announced this SARE grant in my presentation, but the coinciding name of the town we were in may have confused listeners. 

I helped children climb ladders to feed goats from a tall row of hybrid willows at MOFGA Farm and Homestead day in June, and conversed with all ages about our SARE project there. 

MOFGA Tree Fodder Day July 9th was a resounding success; I verbally summarized our SARE project during the farm presentations, and passed around silage and chipped dried samples during our storage discussion circle.  In the remaining days of the Tree Fodder Seminar, arborist climbing instruction and mushroom inoculation workshops occurred in our SARE Demo Plot, where initial pruning was well under way.   

I spoke about “Tree Leaf Preferences of Cows, Sheep, Goats and Hogs” at Common Ground Fair; see the power-point presentation (that did not show in a sunny tent) posted at

I have been freezing small samples of each silage opened, and in my process of scrambling to explore grant funding the nutritional testing of these samples, my University contacts doubled and became newly aware of our SARE project.  In visiting farms for livestock responses plus playing fiddle at Camden Farmers’ Market, I connected with two more arborists, one of whom is now on board to bring us large amounts of ensilable chipped leafy branches of various species, taking us perhaps toward an “Innovative Practices” exploration of using Faithful Venture Farm’s bail wrapper to ensile in one-ton tote bags. 

I hope to line up venues this winter for sharing of our Final Report in 2019-20. 

Demo Plot Set-up

Fencing:  Josh Kauppila and I Shana Hanson started this spring by surveying and fencing a 1 acre square area, in order to include presence of goats munching while we worked for extended periods.  We used 5 rows of stainless steel wire I had previously ordered wholesale from a company in MA (1 cent more per foot than retail polywire at the time), with one row of white and black polywire on top for visibility.  We used pieces of bicycle and motorcycle inner-tubes, with a layer wrapped onto small poplar poles, and then a strip tied around the wire then tied around the inner-tube protected pole.

The fencing held up well, with fair resilience when branches landed on it, and easy repair.  The charge from a 30 mile ParMak DC charger with 10 or 15 watt panel and truck battery was not sufficient to prevent escapes when goats were offered limited leaf choices.  Our habit of being tied up in trees caused delayed responses to the goats’ initial break-outs; timely training is key to having goats respect charged wire fencing.  Dry ground conditions did not help, combined with the large size of paddock and tendency for moist and conducive ferns to replace themselves quickly in some moister stretches, overly grounding the fence.  Therefore goats were sometimes tethered to trees near brush piles, upon which we fed them the fresh branch menu of the day. 

Toward fall, offerings in the Demo Plot rose in attractiveness over those outside the fence.  For one, we were getting faster at setting ropes from tree to tree, plus pruning a mix of choice species.  Also the goats started accepting hay in their paddock overnight, balancing tree tannins well.  Goats were contented and started feeling like the Demo Plot was home; break-outs decreased and they were tied less frequently.

Weighing Goats (to assess quantity of Demo Plot leaf fodder eaten):  Josh and I brought an antique platform scale (recently purchased in Lincolnville for $300) across pasture, down the wooded bank and across the stream using a large plastic Jet sled.  Josh brought a plywood platform for it; I strung a tarp fence over by the shady south gate.  We soon added an internal fence separating the weighing area, as goats were gaining weight immediately at branch piles while we fetched each goat back for weighing.  We did often offer them a more limited snack of browse during weighing.

The adult goats accepted weighing as required at entrance and exit times, and tended to want to continue to stand on the scale longer than necessary.  The kids sometimes stuck around for this fun, but sometimes dove the fence in favor of immediate access to leafy branch piles.  We occasionally let go of retrieving them, in favor of computing representative weights based on other days’ weighing data, as the kids (who were born in July and nursed most of our growing season) usually had minor to no weight changes from entrance to exit.


Restructuring the Tree Canopy 

Felling, Stripping or Retaining Softwoods:  White cedars and hemlocks are being retained as sources of winter fodder.  Josh and I decided that balsam firs and white pines with live growth below 10 feet could be retained and topped, surviving and offering some prunable or browsable fodder value without undue shading of broadleaf pollards. I also topped and pruned a few individual firs and pines that offer ladder service to access a neighboring tall broadleaf. 

The canopy started out dense with tall firs both live and dead, and a lesser number of tall young pines.  These trees were often hard to extricate from canopies of broadleaf trees we are retaining.  We had thought we could complete the felling of such conifers before leaf-out, but even now in fall some softwood trunks designated for felling remain puzzles unsolved, awaiting concurrent pollarding of the neighboring broadleafs.  Both Josh and myself attained much practice in making plunge cuts, steep diagonal trunk cuts to shorten a tree vertically piece by piece in a limited area.  I also used normal notch and hinge felling to lean a tree back and forth in a small opening, dropping 8 foot lengths of trunk until the top came down. 

We climbed to stub all limbs leaving no greenery on three large white pines, meaning to offer dead standing trunks to wood peckers.  This is our gesture of active hope in response to the predicted approach of Emerald Ash Borers.  Ash leaves are rated highly by all the livestock groups.  

We have designated one grand white pine as a retained full-sized “standard;” a tree thus retained sometimes is designated a “legacy tree” in modern forestry literature.  This will challenge the north corner of our Demo Plot with undue shade, yet even in 1756 Johann Brauner wrote about not wanting to prune certain grand trees in a pollarded woodland. 

Initial Pruning (pollarding) of Broadleaf Trees: 

Beech:  Due to goats’ preference for beech in early spring (hogs later showed us that they want beech all summer!), and with few beech in the Demo Plot, we choose to prune in spring but leave greenery.  We cut the top and each limb back to a live twig or branch at arm’s length from trunk or closer.  Sometimes we would leave a long low (shaded too much to sprout well or become dominant) branch with unreachable greenery intact, especially if critical for climbing.  We generally left about 1/3 the original foliage amount.   

White Birch:  Goats wanted white birch for a brief mid-springtime window, then for a longer window in fall.  They even accepted a completely yellow bit on Oct. 20th, though preferring green leaves of oak.   Most of the Demo Plot white birches had large bare trunks, and high small tops, which we were challenged to access.  Three are left for next spring, as the turning of their leaves has gotten ahead of our pruning.  I am hoping for arborist training about using spikes (traditional in some European countries, at least on spruces pruned for animal bedding), for one especially tall bare trunk.   

We made chop marks every 2 ft. down the bare trunks of the three birches pruned in spring, and are unsure as yet if this will help sprouting.  If I succeed in climbing with spikes, the spike wounds may likewise help sprouts emerge from trunk bark. 

Only one pollarded white birch (pruned earliest) has good new growth; we are hoping the rest will sprout next spring. 

Yellow Birch:  In later spring we pruned yellow birches, leaving quite a bit of structure and foliage (all now in reach), as they tend to be shaded by other trees in the Demo Plot.  Due to their high shade tolerance, they almost always have live branchy climbing structures to begin with.  It was never the goats’ favorite fodder, but has a much longer window than white birch.  We highly enjoyed stripping the aromatic leaves for the silage sample. 

Half of the Demo Plot yellow birches remain in the shady north corner, to be pruned next spring, as we felt pressed (by goats’ nutritional choices and our own worries about surmounting the taller trees) to start on poplars (aspens) as they became (we thought) sufficiently stocked mid-season.

Big-tooth and Quaking Aspens:  We were at first a bit daunted by the height of the bare and sometimes flexible trunks of the aspens.  We received well-timed invaluable instruction from Edgar Evenkeel in July, who improved our selection of knots and equipment just as we started on the aspens. 
Aspen foliage bunches are mounted upon fragile twigs, often a ways from the trunk.  Haakan Slotte wrote that one should thin rather than fully pollard birches and aspens, yet black poplar pollards in England respond well to complete lopping of branches back to a boll or bolls.  We left one or two twigs of greenery where possible to reach, and sometimes more on shaded lower limbs which might lack energy to sprout well, but often stubbed to either multiple collars or less often to a bare climbable short length of branch with a single cut in the higher reaches of the tree.  Sometimes the twigs we left broke off from subsequent pruning. 

We pruned two quaking aspens outside the fence, as they may share roots with our Demo trees, and would likely dominate if left full-sized.

None of the pruned aspens showed any new growth, and remaining leaves partly dried in late summer.  We await spring to discover whether we have killed them or not.  I have always left almost half of foliage on aspen pollards outside the Demo Plot.

White Ash:  We are glad to have a fair number of young ash in the understory, and a handful of mature ashes varying broadly in age.  We have pruned most; a couple young ones remain for next summer, and we are debating whether to leave unpruned two slow-growing venerable old seed producers in the pine-shaded north corner. 

We often left many shortened branches on the understory ashes, as they are fully accessible already, and may be dominated by the taller pollards of other species if they do not start with some immediate leaves in spring.  On higher ashes, we often made only one or two large slightly sloping cuts, leaving stubs or branches mostly having to do with ergonomics of climbing. 

Ash pollards outside the Demo Plot have responded well to nearly complete removal of foliage-bearing growth after a 3 year rest, despite ashes’ susceptibility to stress from our droughts 2015 to present.  Bolls developing on low side limbs have a harder time maintaining sprouting energy than do bolls near the top (as on most trees); hence our occasional choice to leave a lower limb intact to be sure to retain a live climbing foothold or ladder set.   

Red Oak:    We pruned all 11 oaks in the Demo Plot, mostly in fall to take advantage of their ability to hold green leaves when other species’ leaves color and drop .  They vary broadly in size/age, with most being in early maturity.  

Some oaks received large top cuts leaving no foliage; some retained a few plumes on shortened branches.  One began to sprout in earnest 3 weeks after pruning.  The oaks pruned late are likely to wait until spring to sprout.  Cuts on oak can stay fungus-free for 7 years or so, while waiting for a healing edge to close; hence our willingness to make some larger cuts.

Red Maple:  Most of the large maples were storm pollarded, possibly in the 1998 Ice Storm (our ring counts on maples were visual guesses as rings were quite faint).  So I have varied from our originally planned 3 ” cuts, to sometimes re-pollard near an original break, or sometimes cut the old trunk down further, to strong lower growth response to the storm damage.  In summer we were leaving “sap risers” (small branches with a bit of foliage) on almost each limb cut back;  in winter, I am often leaving only chunky collars or short stubs (probability of sprouting is high on maples). 

Smaller diameter maples, responses to basal firewood cuts of the previous landowner pre-2000, were/are often as tall as the larger maples, yet due to smooth young bark we can expect sprouting from a trunk cut in easy reach.  These long young tops offer a lot of tasty bark for goats to strip, yet can be deceivingly dangerous to cut.  The goats have learned well the command “Watch Out!”  

Processing Fodders:

Drying Piles:  We found that with a person atop a drying pile holding the leafy ends of a bundle together just past the center of the pile, the person handing up the bundle could spread the larger stick ends for an even horizontally packed tight stack.  We found that the center poles were unnecessary, as pile height was limited by our ability to lift the brush, and to mount the pile to spread it.  The density of the 5 ft. high piles increased as armloads were added.  We worried that leaves would shatter, but air moisture kept them pliable.  Mold and insect damage occurred where leaves were concentrated at the center, exacerbated by moisture entering at the pole opening.

Nick Jackson at Jackson Regenerational Farm (one of our sampling farms) misunderstood my verbal description, and did something possibly better:  He stacked up to 8 ft. coppice cuttings vertically, stick ends down, wrapping a rope around the initial bundles with a rooted center pole for stability.  This configuration may be better for on-site feeding, as animals can eat directly from each layer without temptation to climb and soil the pile.

Chipping:  We chipped into a moveable calf hutch, with cardboard or plywood beneath.  The silages packed with a complete inner plastic bag were mold-free; those relying upon just the bucket seal, or just topped with a shopping bag of same fodder, sometimes molded.  The molded silages were generally still accepted by livestock.  The dried chipped fodders were spread 2″ deep in wooden blueberry flats; aspens tended to mold, and generally the ensiled chips were better received than the dried. 

Hand stripping:  Ash, aspens and willow were quick to hand-strip, snapping short twigs with leaf bunches.  Other species were impractical to hand-strip for silage, yet certainly ranked a notch higher than chipped silages by the animals.  
An update with photos here by me, Emily, joining Shana and Josh on the grant as the the second and newest intern. We've all been steadily improving our climbing skills and getting into the full swing of the grant: climbing; pruning; piecing fodder; ensiling fodder; chipping fodder; weighing goats; entering data; bringing samples to neighboring farms. The demo area canopy is really starting to open up as we make progress across the acre. 

Here are some before and after pictures of trees that we've done to get an idea of what our pruning looks like: 

Red oak, before and after 

Red maple, before and after 

Big-tooth aspen, before and after 

We are bringing samples of our various forms of tree fodder (fresh, chipped, ensiled) to livestock at nearby farms and ranking their responses.

Faithful Ventures Farm

 Jackson Regenerational Farm

Here is Shana, way up a poplar....And here are some of the goaties sneaking under our tarps which is one of our main methods of storing and drying the pieced fodder. There must be something tasty under there!


A very dry entry, though freed by the blessed rain to work on this:

Guidelines (draft) for felling and pruning in our SARE Farmer Grant “Air Meadow” Demo Plot:

Our choices for cutting softwoods:

Cedar and hemlock reserved for winter pruning (one of each?).  One very grand white pine left for Foliage Height diversity, atmospheric and unknown environmental contributions, and general respect of the giant.    Firs and other pines left standing if 10 feet or less to first live branch, and reasonably healthy.  Prune retained softwoods in winter to early spring, leaving at least 1/3 greenery

Our choices for pruning beech:

In fall, I have “shredded” beech leaving almost no leaves, and trunk-cut beech, both with positive results.  My goats consider beech to be a choice spring fodder; the occasional short fall window of palatability is unreliable, especially in drought years.  Therefore I have pruned 2 beeches  severely this spring outside Demo Area, despite lack of time for tree restocking, to see what happens.  Yet with few beech in Demo Area, we choose the tried-and-true more cautious approach:

Cut top and each limb back to a live twig or branch at arm’s length from trunk or closer (or at least within reach!).  If no near growth on to cut branch back to, and plenty of other branches, consider removal if high, or leaving intact if down in shade (so less dominant).  Try to leave more than one twig near far end of each branch.  Cut remaining twigs back to be < 3 ft. and preferably much shorter, leaving at least 1-3 live sprouts on each but not more than 1/3 to 1/2 the original foliage amount.    

Slope cuts away or back toward tree trunk from collar of twig or branch that is left, to  about a 120 degree angle, tracing route of sap flow to live member; this blunt angle can be more easily enveloped during advance of healing edge over cut surface.  A location with sprouts in two or more directions is an ideal cut location, not always needing sloped cutting. 

If branches from trunk are within 3 ft. of each other vertically and receive plenty of sunlight, we take more chance in leaving less foliage-bearing growth on each.  Our aim is to have enough branches survive to support free-climbing at future harvests.  If a branch is very vital for human access to and comfort in the tree, we leave more on it to assure its survival. 

If an average of more than 1 branch per 3 ft., remove some branches entirely to their collars.  Probably even then we are leaving too much, and diffusing sprouting and healing ability.  We are perhaps erring in our caution, yet consider that some branches may die when brittle retained twigs break subsequent to or during this initial pruning.   

Take out most growth which impedes climbing near trunk and inside retained branches, unless needed to eventually fill a gap in branches.  Retained leafy twigs are ideally near cut end of retained branches, yet pruned back enough to encourage new sprouts near cut. 

Report on healing and structural integrity of beech:

Surface of cuts from 6/2/14 remain firm; longitudinal cut on or near central leader almost enclosed (take picture), yet end cuts on branches though well-slanted have insufficient diametric growth to advance the healing edge.  Consider retaining a more limited number of branches (examples: pollards in Sare, France; trasmochos in Navarre per Pollarding Guide) to concentrate growth and healing. 

Even small branches of beech can take weight close to their collars.  A beech “shredded” back to the trunk (in fall),  was not yet climbable at year three (a red oak was!), because growth on beech is very slow, so sprouts were small, and collars were  not well embedded.  Yet my guess would be that 8 year sprouts might hold my 120 lbs. placed carefully.  
Initial pruning of white birch:

Birches in Demo Area are tall with high small tops.  Climb for initial pruning with rope and harness (22 ft. extension ladder not long enough).  Slotte (2000) recommends thinning versus cutting all on birch, so leave at least 1/3 foliage, especially as birch is most palatable in spring, well before trees are restocked.  Some of our birches were “storm pollarded” in 1998, lowering and diversifying the top for us. 

I am slitting bark with 2”+ handsaw cuts at 60 degrees, every 2 ft. along trunk but alternating sides.  Potential resultant trunk sprouts will thus have 4 feet between them vertically.  This technique to elicit sprouting was used near ends of stubbed branches (on oaks?) in the Spanish Basque country (Pollarding Guide), and has been tried on ____ in Virginia, USA with positive results by Eliza Greenman (personal communication , 3/3/18).  Bark of white birch is particularly impervious to sprouting without such treatment, yet such treatment also risks entry of fungi.  Time will tell.  Our alternative would be to resign ourselves to  rope and harness ascention for small returns at future harvests. 

Healing and structural integrity of white birch:

All cut or broken surfaces on birch rot quickly, yet live wood around hollows can reinforce tree members as it thickens and eventually closes.  Mature live branches are strong with solid collars, but young branches are incredibly flexible even close to the trunk.
Today I ended up meeting Faithful Venture Farm's Holsteins in their pasture instead of at milking time. This was SO fun:  they stampeded up to me in this very green sunny place, and politely checked out but refused the white birch both on the branch, and fresh chipped (that's expectable; it's a sheep species).

Since I was way down the hill already, I decided to be even later for my own animals, and took a walk to fetch basswood, ash, and oak from the trees there.   The cows had gone back to stand close along the wood line in shade, and upon my return only #162 was facing me on my end.  She hogged everything, before the others caught on!  I suspect Basswood  (linden, lime, Tilia) and White Ash (Fraxinus) to continue to be on their menu of choices; the oak may only be tasty to them at this young understory stage.

In any case, now I have a friend.  #162 followed me to sniff and refuse the white birch again, and then I crawled under another fence line to offer some elm, which was surprisingly only nibbled - very fuzzy stage, not fully leafed - or is that different than the elm at my place?  (my leaves are pretty smooth now).  There is supposedly Slippery Elm around here.

Penny the Dexter cow at Jackson Regenerational Farm, and the sheep at Y Knot Farm all settled happily for white birch, both intact and chipped.

My goaties got some nicer white birch later, from a lush pollard next to their grassy paddock  : )  Yet they limit consumption, eating eagerly until their tannin limit is reached?  We shall see if the ensiled chips are more digestible for them, next winter.

Tomorrow I will bring some white birch to the hogs.  They appreciated it dried last winter.

Today I conversed with a likely internship candidate, though she hopes to start in July.  Perhaps Josh Kauppila and myself will be spelled a bit by Susie Dexter with some Per Diem days, in the interim.  I am sleeping strange hours in order to pull of what we are managing to keep up with, as the original plan was to have three interns.    Not that I have ever minded a challenge  : )


Dear Witnesses to my Leafy Obsession, and also our Milk Drinkers who have broken fast this week,

The weighing of goats coming in and out of our Demo Plot has become almost a Goat Treat.  Some were getting back up onto the scale to see if I would rub any more black flies out of their fur and off their bellies.

The goats gratified me by showing interest in the moist young white birch leaves today, just about flatly refused yesterday.   I must bring a sample to my hogs.

I succeeded yesterday morning in finding my way to a digital scale at the CoOp downtown (despite store rearrangement), bagged goat poops in hand (in paper And plastic).  8 defecation events in 2 hrs. only added up to just over a half lb..  I meant to point out to a cashier that I was bringing something in to weigh, but no one was at the front right then, causing some concern that  I might get caught shop-lifting the poops...or even worse, weighing them for a drug deal.   Yet despite store cameras, no cops trailed me home (my car inspection is over-due, but maybe they would have been too gaga over the poops to notice?).

Josh and I were up in beech trees, as the black flies stay near the ground.  The Goaties were intent to thieve our paper records, and at one point Zephyr did sleight-of-mouth with a roll of electrical tape for rope ends.  This is unusual feistiness for my calm loving goats; they get bored with the small (1 acre) fenced-in plot.

4/28/18 Dear Josh, Any May, and those Curious about our Funded Farmer Research in the Woods,

Today 7 goats entered our beautifully fenced (thank you Josh and Any May for your parts in that) but as yet uncharged (chargers coming today, so they say) Acre ‘Air Meadow’ SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)Demo Plot, for the first time.  I took lots of pictures and video clips, to commemorate.  The sunshine sparkled down through leaves, and the black flies became invisible in idyllic movie-land. 

Upon entering, I had to retrieve each goat from their immediate excited eating of ferns, myanthemum, rue, etc., to introduce the Weighing Protocol.  Rubix (1 month old yesterday) chose to be first, as he thought to play ‘king of the hill’ with me – the scale is the ‘hill’.  He weighed 20 ¾ lbs. (really?  Wow!).   Then the biggest trick was to get him to stay off the scale when not his turn.  So if I recorded anyone to be 20 lbs. heavier than usual in the first weighing, we know why. 
The whole weighing took 20 minutes, including fetching each out of speed browsing.   Then began what was supposed to be 3 hrs. of poop and urination counting and collections.  The aim is to create a standard weight/hr. to subtract when computing how much they ate, by weighing them.  Keeping eyes on all 7 was tricky; perhaps some urinations were clandestine (especially when they convinced me to set a ladder on some small beech and behead the trees, to improve their now slower browsing).

At two urinations sighted in a 2 hr. period, and none collected (over too fast), I suspect we lost more liquid to the black flies, who came out in full force just today.  They are way too small for the platform scale, plus hard to catch without losing all that liquid AGAIN.  So Farmer Research it is – inexact science. 

Poops, on (or should I say “in” more literally) the other hand (in an old plastic bag stolen from the flagging tape scraps, and slightly leaky) were worth some attention, weighing in at  1 or 2 lbs. total.  We are still out on the reward goat walk (for good behavior – no ‘king of the hill’ at 2nd weighing, and they got that they must follow through and be weighed before release), so have not yet actually weighed the blob.  And blob it is; new grass of the pasture is probably giving us a seasonally heavy Poop Weight figure!  Maybe that error will balance a few excretive events surely missed.

To my pleasant surprise, despite the goats’ quick deceleration of excitement at meals available today within the fence, and despite the 1-slide-with-1- weight antiquity of our score-of-an-old Platform Scale from a garage in Lincolnville (and thank you again Josh for boating this 200 lb. item – a guess, as it cannot get onto itself-  across the stream) …  not only did the weighing WORK!!! … but everyone except Rubix (who rated playing upon the stream rocks higher than eating) GAINED WEIGHT!!!  1 ½ lbs., 2 ½ lbs., Josie over 15 lbs…… wait – we must add a double-take of whether one foot is calmly resting somewhere Next to the platform? to our Weighing Protocol. 
But 13 out of 14 good goat weights on a first run-through is Not Bad, for only-1-person-today, out-numbered by 7 goats, outnumbered exponentially by very distracting BLACK FLIES… SARE Farmer Research  : )
Now black flies are impeding my view of this screen and clogging the keyboard, as goats have collected around me to chew cud, politely announcing ‘enough Canada Lillies (Myanthemum Canadens);  time to go string a pasture paddock.’  So my blog closes.

Much love and spring milk, Shana